Medical student resources

White Coat Ceremonies

white coat physician

While some might say the standard medical uniforms doctors wear are scrubs and a funny pair of clogs, it is the white lab coat that has come to symbolize the American doctor.

The white lab coat is as recognizable as the stethoscope as an icon of the trusted physician. White Coat Ceremonies have become common rituals in medical schools across the country. Marking a student's entry into medical school, they serve as a formal acknowledgement of this major milestone. Begun in 1993 at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, today there are White Coat Ceremonies at more than 100 medical schools around the United States.

When a student finally reaches the doors of medical school, they already have a host of accomplishments worth celebrating: they've aced and applied their SATs, MCATS, AMCAS, and other painful acronyms. The White Coat Ceremony can be seen as recognition of these achievements, as well as a commitment to the long road ahead that leads to a medical degree.

Because the White Coat Ceremony recognizes a student's entrance into medical school, these events typically take place in August or September. Family and friends are invited to join in the formal "robing" ceremony, where students literally don the cloak of the medical profession — the lab coat.

Aside from noting this major milestone in a student's journey to becoming a physician, White Coat Ceremonies are also meant to emphasize medical students' sense of responsibility to the field they have chosen. Students are asked to read the Hippocratic Oath together, focusing on the importance of compassion in medicine and the significance of the doctor-patient relationship. 

White Coat Ceremonies have been supported by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, a public foundation dedicated to fostering humanism in medicine. The foundation now provides each medical student participating in White Coat Ceremonies with a pin symbolizing a commitment to compassionate and competent patient care.

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